The plaintiffs say they will appeal against the refusal of compensation. In the meantime, campaigners plan to use the lower court’s finding to bolster suits in other cities. More favourable rulings could increase pressure on parliament to act.
Most voters would welcome that. A poll in 2018 found that nearly 80% of people aged between 20 and 59 approved of same-sex marriage; the share rose to nearly 90% among those in their 20s. Since two wards in Tokyo became the first local authorities to issue same-sex partnership certificates in 2015, 72 more have followed, home to a third of the population.
Many business leaders see gay marriage as an economic as well as moral issue. As the American Chamber of Commerce in Japan noted last year, given the shrinking labour force, “Japanese companies cannot afford to lose in the global competition for the brightest talent.” Nearly 150 companies belong to a “Business for Marriage Equality” campaign, among them blue-chip firms such as Fujitsu and Panasonic.
But the ruling Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) remains opposed to gay marriage. Its old-fashioned views on matters of sexual equality extend to married couples, whom it continues to bar from retaining separate surnames. Just 9% of LDP candidates for the upper house of parliament in 2019 backed gay marriage. Last month the prime minister, Suga Yoshihide, defended the government for supporting “the foundations of the family in this country”. But banning people from forming families is a peculiar form of support.